Women’s pensions are in the news

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Iain Duncan Smith: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

ONE often used argument for moving pension ages is that women live longer than men

JANUARY has been a particularly important month for women and the debate concerning the transition of payment of pensions so that women qualify at the same age as men.

In theory, with the call for overall equality this does not appear to be totally unreasonable and with the government desperate to save as much money as possible, the £30 billion due to be saved is certainly not to be ignored.

The difficulty, however, as has been highlighted in two debates in the House of Commons and in a public meeting, is that of fairness.

It was as early as 1995 that the then Labour government decided to look to bring retirement ages for men and women in line but – and this is a very important but – it was explained that there should be a transition period of 15 years in order to allow women to make provisions so they were aware that they would not receive a pension at 60, but would either have to work longer or make additional private arrangements.

This also seems perfectly reasonable, except that critics have argued the 1995 decision was not properly explained to the women affected and it was only as recently as 2010 that some (but not all) women were written to and advised that their retirement age had increased.

Thus, they may only have had a few years notice which would be insufficient to allow them to buy additional pensions, even if they could afford them and even by working longer, they may not have paid sufficient national insurance contributions to qualify for the full amount in any case.

This particularly affects women born between October 6, 1953 and April 5, 1955 who have seen their retirement ages shoot up. 

I speak with some bias as my wife was born on October 10 1953 and therefore won’t be able to claim a pension until she is 64 and eight months, but to add to her problem, she worked for a number of years for the government in Gibraltar where their pension age is 60. However because she worked for more years in the UK than Gibraltar, they are withholding her pension until she reaches retirement age in Britain.

One of the often used arguments for moving pension ages is that women live longer than men, but recent figures have shown the opposite with the average age for men catching up with women.

This is a very complicated yet important matter which the British government appears disinclined to doing anything about, but for those who are interested on how it may affect you, then there is a very strong pressure group, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) which has its own Facebook page.

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